Fatigued by the Holidays? (Episode 94)

The holidays are more exhausting for some people. If you’re one of those people, this episode is for you. Join host Kay Coughlin as she talks about how to use your fatigue as a tool to help you figure out what you need right now to reduce your load this season. As always, no judgment, no guilt, and no pressure.

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Transcript: Fatigued by the Holidays? (Episode 94) 

You’re listening to From One Caregiver to Another. I’m your host, Kay Coughlin. I’m a business coach and an advocate for people with family caregiver responsibilities. I’m a family caregiver for my mother, too, and I just don’t believe that we caregivers have to put ourselves last. I believe that our families, government, and society in general owe us a lot more help than we usually get. And I’m here to help you learn to speak up for yourself so you can live your own life again.

This is episode 94.

Today I want to speak directly to anybody listening who has holiday obligations that are draining you and don’t feel very energizing for you. If you are finding the holidays to be just too much for you right now, and if you are feeling fatigued, I want you to know that I see you and I’ve been there.

And I also want you to know that there is nothing wrong with you. You know, we have this giant myth we like to believe about the holidays, that all holidays, whether we’re talking about winter holidays or some other holiday, we have this myth that the traditions we have and the parties we go to are grand and magnificent and always meaningful. And that all of it is so much fun and it’s only ever a good.

But look, that is just not true for everybody, especially for those of us who have family caregiver responsibilities, and I’m including parents in this too, especially if you have young children. You probably know what I’m talking about. The holidays just aren’t always our best time, even if everybody else thinks they are supposed to be.

The expectations on those of us who have family caregiver responsibilities can be overwhelming a lot, but at the same time, the weight of it all, the overwhelm of it all can be really invisible to the people around us. Now, part of this  is, I think because we’ve been taught to hide it from other people when things are really difficult and really draining for you.

So here’s what we do. I think you can relate to this. If you have ever tried to shove your mail pile and your dirty laundry baskets into the closet right before guests come over for some holiday dinner that you didn’t want to host. Or if you’ve ever had to give yourself a pep talk to go to a family gathering, where you just know that you’re going to be grilled by everybody else about why your dad is in a senior living facility instead of living at your house. Or if you’ve ever had to call the emergency squad on Christmas Eve to get your mom up off the floor. Or if you’ve ever stayed up way too late to bake cookies for teacher gifts. I mean, I think you get this. You know what I’m saying, don’t you?

The expectations we put on family caregivers, and by we, I mean society and culture, our culture, but I also mean our families. These expectations to keep on doing the holidays just like they’ve always been done. This is huge for most of us. We absolutely grew up with this, this huge holiday expectation. We could be talking about Christmas or Rosh Hoshanah, or this could be Memorial Day or July 4th, you know, whatever holidays that are big for your families.

The pressure is real. To make that roast the same way as always, and preferably make it in the same pan that’s always been used. And the pressure’s on to have the dinners at mom’s house. Even if mom is sick and you are the one who has to do all of the work, including doing all of the work and making all of the effort to pretend that it’s not so much work. Ugh.

Here’s the thing. Families change over the years. People change. The world changes. What we want to do, what we can do. What’s best for ourselves and the people we care for. That changes over time and it’s time for us to start recognizing that.

So here’s a good example of something that has changed and not for the better over the past couple of years since the pandemic. As of the time I’m recording this in December of 2022, traveling by plane has gotten to be kind of a grim experience. You know, I used to love flying. I actually still love flying and being up in airplanes. I’m a small person, so I really fit pretty easily in airports and on planes. I mean, I’m comfortable even on a crowded plane because I just don’t take up much space, and I really, really enjoy being in the air and being on an airplane.

But at this moment in time, the whole air travel experience is iffy, at best. People are grumpy in the airports. There’s not enough flight attendants to go around. There’s not enough of any airline staff to go around. Actually, there’s a good chance there’s going to be grumpy people on the airplane on your flight.

Look. It’s just if you’ve been on a plane anytime in the last year and a half, I think you know what I’m talking about. Now there’s even a much higher chance that your flight is going to be canceled.

So, If you are in a family where people usually fly to be together at the holidays, that might be what you still expect this year, but flying has changed. It might be too much for people to do this year. It might be too much to afford, but it also might just be too much to get everybody to the airport and get on a plane. And that might be true even for people who’ve always managed to make those flights happen in the past.

What do you do? Well, it’s time to talk about what you really need right now, and if those old traditional holiday obligations aren’t working for you right now, if you are really fatigued by those expectations and plans, please pay attention to that feeling. Your fatigue is trying to tell you something important.

These high stress, high emotion situations like holiday gatherings, these are one of the reasons that I spend so much time talking about setting expectations and setting boundaries all year long. Because it really can be harder to tell people you need a break when you’re typically expected to participate at a really intense level in intense things. And you know, we’re talking about the holidays, right? Those things can be very intense.

If you are feeling fatigued, please take it as a cue that you need to make some changes right now, even if these are only temporary changes, only for this year. In fact, if that makes it easier for you to do, to think about this as being temporary, just something you need this season, by all means, go for it. You can absolutely tell yourself that. And tell people that. You can always choose to make it permanent later if you want to.

Wse your fatigue as a reminder to invest in your own health and wellbeing.

Now, of course, do all of the stuff that your doctor would say that you should do when you’re overwhelmed and when you need to get more rest. Schedule more rest, and then actually get that rest. Drink less alcohol or cut out alcohol entirely. Move your body more. Get out into nature more. Shut off the social media and shut off the news and try to eat less sugar and eat foods that make you feel better. These are all common sense things that we all know to do that make us feel better, that improve our physical health and our mental health, and help us get more rest.

And let’s add to that: say no to the things that aren’t going to work for you right now, or you can negotiate to find compromises that are going to be better for you and for your health.

If you have a thought that you can’t say no to things or that you can’t set boundaries because people expect too much of you in your life, I want you to know that you’re not broken. That’s a pretty common thought for those of us who happen to be human. And that’s a key belief of something that’s known now as “human giver syndrome.” I’ve got a bunch of episodes on that. You might want to go back and listen to some of those episodes if this is a belief that you have.

And if you already know that you deserve to have boundaries, but it’s just really hard for you to do well, you are normal too. There’s nothing wrong with you. You’re not broken. I’m not going to get into how to set boundaries here in this episode because I want to keep this episode as short as I can, and I have done a whole bunch of episodes about boundaries.

In fact, I just created a playlist of episodes that I’ve done about boundaries, and you can find that at Facilitator On Fire dot net slash Boundaries Playlist, and I’ll make sure that that ends up in the show notes too. Or you can just scroll through the podcast to find episodes with the word boundaries in the title, and that’ll get you started.

Of course, you can always join my Free Boundaries community, and over there I will give you as much personalized support with setting boundaries and setting expectations as I can manage to do.

Okay, so take a breath now. Because thinking about setting boundaries during the holidays can be hard, so let’s talk about why it’s worth it. Take a breath and I want you to picture yourself enjoying your holidays, whatever that means to you. Really, really picture it. Get that image in your head and hold onto it. What do you see? What do you hear? What do you smell? What are you wearing? Are you sipping cocoa with your feet up at your house or, or maybe at your grandma’s house? Are you going to dinner at somebody else’s house? Are you in your car driving to see a big display of lights, maybe instead of decorating your own house? Or are you skipping the traditional holiday meal at Aunt Sandy’s house altogether.

Whatever it is for you that makes it so that you will enjoy your holidays more and get some rest, I want you to know it’s possible. It is totally okay to do things that are restful for you and to participate only in traditions that aren’t going to drain you. It might not be easy to get there. I’m never going to promise that it’s easy to do any of this, but I am here to tell you that it’s possible.

That is the end result of setting boundaries. That is the magic of doing the work to talk about expectations and then set boundaries for yourself.

Okay. If you are feeling fatigued during these holidays or because of any family expectations, I see you. I’m going to say one more time that you are not broken and nothing has gone wrong with you. You are just busy being a human being.

This is an opportunity for you to learn the skills of setting expectations and setting boundaries. I’m telling you, it is the best investment you can make in your own wellbeing. In fact, I’m going to tell you that I have never seen anything work faster or pay off faster than learning to set boundaries.

Whatever holiday you’re about to celebrate, I hope it’s terrific and I’m wishing you a happy one.

Thanks for being with me here today. You can find out more about all of this work at Facilitator On Fire dot net. That’s Facilitator On Fire dot net.

If you haven’t already joined my free Boundaries community, what’s stopping you? It is the place to explore setting boundaries without judgment or guilt. There, you’re going to find just real talk about how humans really work. And you can find that community at Facilitator On Fire dot net slash Boundaries. I can’t wait to be with you again in the next episode, From One Caregiver to Another.

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your guide

Kay Coughlin, CEO of Facilitator On Fire, is a business coach for the non-profit sector and social justice businesses. She is also well-known for being an advocate for family caregivers.

In every forum she can find, she shouts that it's OK for every human to earn a living, set and enforce boundaries around their bodies, thoughts, feelings and actions. You can join Kay's free, private online community to talk about boundaries here.

Kay also teaches about emotional labor, how to rest, and Human Giver Syndrome, and is the host of the "From One Caregiver to Another" podcast and author of "From One Caregiver to Another - Overcoming Your Emotional Grind."

Kay is well-known for her public speaking on boundaries and self-care. 

Facilitator on Fire is a subsidiary of Donor Relations Mindset LLC, which Kay founded in 2015. She lives with her husband and children in central Ohio, and is the primary caregiver for her own mother, who lives right next door. Kay can be found on LinkedIn and Instagram.

Copyright 2022. All rights reserved, Julia Kay Coughlin and Facilitator On Fire.

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